DTI to fund training for small business

Three thousand UK machinery and tooling companies will be able to get free training and advice on business and marketing skills.

Three thousand machinery and tooling companies will be able to get free training and advice on business and marketing skills following the launch last week of a new network of trade associations, backed by a £750,000 Department of Trade and Industry grant.

But firms will need to take up the offer within the next three years, after which the services will be charged for at normal commercial rates.

Fourteen trade bodies have linked up to create ‘Competitiveness in mechanical engineering & technology’ or Com-met 2005. It has been formed to help boost productivity and competitiveness among some of the smaller companies in the sector, which DTI research shows is trailing rivals in France, Germany and the US.

The groups involved will share DTI funding of £250,000 per year and offset it against the costs of delivery of advice and services for a total of up to 3,000 member companies, representing 28,000 employees.

The move is typical of the current trend in government support for industry, with funding being delivered by trade bodies on a ‘self-help’ basis.

Talks are understood to be taking place to launch a similar project covering the railway equipment and maintenance sector.

Com-met’s training and advice function will focus on six categories, including e-commerce, marketing, research and development, statistics and international trade.

Simon Brown, director general of the Machine Tool Technologies Association, said Com-met was important for the signal it sent to government, which has long criticised industry for having too many trade bodies with an apparent inability to speak with one voice.

‘It is important for the DTI to see a group of manufacturing trade bodies proving that they can work together,’ he said. ‘You can look at what chancellor Gordon Brown is pushing for in terms of boosting competitiveness and productivity, and see that this is a way of delivering that to small companies at the grass roots.’

The project is being coordinated by the Mechanical and Metal Trades Confederation, a grouping of 35 trade bodies including the 14 within Com-met. A Com-met trade mission to China linking up with a visit being planned by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, is being planned for spring 2001.

More on the web at www.com-met2005.org.uk